IMPERIAL — The 45th District Agricultural Association Board of Directors met May 18 to discuss fair board issues including next year’s fair theme, new 4H club growth, and continuing discussions on formalizing the relationship with the Junior Livestock Foundation (JLF) through an MOU. The fair board had informed the JLF that the state attorney had said auction money could not be legally divided between the fair and the JLF without a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).
Michelle Taylor, vice-president of the Junior Livestock Foundation (JLF), addressed the board about a statement IV Expo CEO Theresa Garcia issued the previous evening at the monthly livestock meeting. The livestock leaders again had addressed the overcrowding of barns and asked Garcia if Doc’s Barn could be reverted back to a useable barn.
“This came up for the second year with the FFA concern about Doc’s farm,” said Garcia. “If you think your barns are too crowded then maybe FFA can get together and make a recommendation on how you’d like to lower your numbers. But we’re probably going to keep Doc’s as an educational livestock for the thousands of people that go in there, that’s their interaction with animals. So if you really think it’s a crowd issue and you really have concerns about animal welfare, why don’t you figure out if you want to cut numbers and how you would do that? But otherwise we try to do the best we can to get as many kids involved.”
Taylor reminded the board that the County has matched the agricultural scholarships offered in the Valley because there is a shortage of agricultural majors returning to the valley to fill the careers necessary for a large and vibrant farm area. Taylor repeated the need for more livestock barns to engage all the kids wanting to participate.
When asked about the Memorandum of Understanding the JLF has commissioned attorney Bill Smerdon to present to the board, Michelle Taylor answered they planned to have the draft ready for the board by June 30. Taylor said the delay was caused by some of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests on financials from the fair had not been forthcoming .
Linsey Dale, fair board vice-president, questioned why knowing the fair’s financials had anything to do with their organization’s MOU.
“I am confused,” said Dale. “Our financial system is not connected to your MOU.”
“Before we jump into a MOU with the board, we have to know what the costs are,” responded Taylor. “For instance, we have not gotten any bank records on the FOIA request on a specific account, we have one month’s (bank) statement, but this account isn’t even on the general ledger. For example, if we are going to be responsible for putting on the buyers’ bar-b-que during the auction, we need to know the real costs of what we are signing up for.”
“We received the audit and we want to confirm the cost analysis for 2013-2014, we were waiting for that and for other things too,” Trina Hamby, 4-H leader and JLF member, added.
“Who is the JLF?” Dale asked. “We need to have a discussion. According to your by-laws it is two members (each) from Grange, FFA, livestock auction committee, the board and 4-H. Grange is no longer recognized as a club by the board. This board no longer participates, (livestock) auction committee is now dissolved, and 4-H no longer participates. Who is JLF now?”
Board president, Joe Montenegro, answered the question by saying the JLF has their own autonomy and can have who they want in their organization.
The JLF and the board have exchanged words since the June 10 fair board meeting when CEO, Theresa Garcia, announced that California Attorney General Kamala Harris stated no livestock auction funds would be deposited into the Junior Livestock Foundation. Instead, the fair board would now be handling all 6½% of the money deducted from the sale price of every animal sold at auction at the Mid-Winter Fair and Fiesta.
The JLF was formed when the livestock show grounds and barns were in disrepair and went to the board and the livestock organizations, all agreeing to take a percentage from the sales to make capital improvements in the livestock section of the fair.
In other business, Shannon Abatti, 4-H county leader, said the seed money donated by the County has made a positive impact in the Calexico area developing potential clubs and a standout number of leaders coming forth.
“We are at club number 15, and if all the clubs develop, the Valley will have 18 clubs. Winterhaven, the naval base, Calvary Chapel, and Faith Assembly are all in the works and Dogwood 4-H is now in their 3rd year,” Abatti said. “The best part is that these clubs are starting from within the communities, it hasn’t been us fanning up interest. We are very excited.”
The board tossed several themes on the table for the fair next year. It was suggested to have an agricultural theme every other year and use topical subjects like the upcoming Olympics or sports, perhaps acknowledging professional baseball players who hail from the Valley such as Sergio Romo and Rudy Saenez. In the end, the board voted to honor agriculture, specifically the honey and sugar industries, despite a few members worried about sugar being politically taboo.
Also up for discussion was AB 2678, a bill in the state house dealing with fair vendors and delineating 30% of the sales tax collected from fair vendors returning to the fair boards for capital improvements rather than into the State’s general fund. The funds would be deposited into the Fair and Exposition Fund and continuously appropriated for allocation by the Secretary of Food and Agriculture to all California State fairs except for Los Angeles.
Fair CEO, Theresa Garcia, recommended to the County to support the bill, considering they could get more than they generate. Garcia said the fairs would not be fighting over a small pot, but would be splitting up a new pot, it is a way to capture more money, she said.
Dale questioned whether the excess paperwork generated by the bill would be worth the extra cost of staff to go after the money.
Vendors at the Mid-Winter Fair pay $500 for a booth and the fair does not track their sales. This bill would necessitate tracking sales at state fairs.
The fair board will meet next June 1 at 5 p.m. in the board room. The agenda is available at www.ivexpo.com